Children in the grocery store running wild, teenagers arguing with parents after instructions have already been given or up all hours of the night on Facebook with parents right next door. Who really is in control today? Is it parents or is it children? The parenting style of today has certainly shifted in a major way since the 1960’s. Parents of today unlike those in the 60’s and 70’s seem more concerned with righting the wrongs of their past which in effect has pushed them way off balance. Moreover, with the great controversy over whether corporal punishment is healthy or harmful, discipline has been replaced with a mere talking to and a windfall of praise. This dramatic shift in the way persons parent has skewed our children’s view of authority, impacted how we run our schools, and our country.
Over the years, I have witnessed a great deal of parents who have expended a great deal of time in chauffeuring their children from one activity to the next. Christable Johnson, a mother of two, ferries her children after school and on weekends from music, to swimming to soccer lessons. For Christabel, her children are her life. Undoubtedly, in her mind, being a good parent means putting her own needs aside to meet those of her children. But is this the lesson we really want to communicate to our children? Do we want our children to believe that adults are primarily in their lives to serve them? That every waking moment of the day, the adults in their lives are there to satisfy their every whim or fancy while they are not obligated to show consideration for others.
Often some parents as a result of being raised by a mother who may have been overly critical, or a father who may have beaten them too frequently often resolve within themselves to be the opposite when they have their children. When these parents are called in and the matter is put before the parent, instead of the teenager receiving the discipline they need these children are kissed and hugged- supported in the bad behavior. A few years ago when Carlene Johnson was a teacher in the public education system, she recalled dealing with a teenage boy who presented himself as a gangster. His pants sagged below his hips, the words, “yall niggas dem don’ know” spat from his lips while he made the gun sign in the air at the other students. Despite being asked to be quiet and being referred to administrators, his behavior persisted. When the parents were called in and the teacher explained what happened, the parent seemed more upset with the teacher than with the son. The parent even told the teacher that she should not describe her son as a “gangster” as life and death was in the power of the tongue. This example is just one of many some educators are experiencing during their day today interactions with students. Should the parents have fixated on the label the child was assigned or the behavior? Are parents responsible today for ensuring that children know when they have done wrong? In the real world bosses certainly do not hesitate in telling us to our face when they are disappointed in us. Why are some parents setting their children up for failure?
Every child who would have gone through the government school system from primary to junior to senior high school would have been taught the same school rules. For this reason, I am baffled by the philosophy which governs how we discipline teenagers at the Senior High Level. When students come to the 10th grade, they seem more hell bent on breaking the rules. Do you think this mental attitude began on day one of their Senior high school experience? Chances are this student has been breaking the school rules way before now. However, because our preoccupation with how discipline will affect our children’s self esteem has gone completely overboard. This overindulgent way of raising children today has resulted in a school of teenagers who generally have no respect for the teachers, the janitorial staff, or the administration.
At this stage in the development of our educational product, I believe we are in a present crisis because teenagers are in charge of our schools. Every year despite the threat of imprisonment, incidents of students and parents assaulting teachers continue to take place. When this happens there are those who attempt to justify the unacceptable behavior with misplaced empathy. “The ahh Lord he has been working for the last two months to pay for his mother’s burial or the poor thing he has been sleeping in a car for a month because he has nowhere to go or her she has been raped are all tragic incidents. However, the harsh reality of life is every individual at some time or another has had some tragedy in their lives. Our teenagers should know that even in tragedy they still have choices. And with each choice made, there is a consequence. If a teenager even as much as says a mean, let alone raise his or her voice or hand to an adult the discipline should be dire. After all, would an employee be permitted to curse at his boss several times or another employee and still be employed for that company? There are standards that are already set by the business community. School practitioners, who are parents 6 and ¾ hours of the day seem to be setting a dangerous precedence. And for this the teenagers that I have interacted with almost daily scoff at us. Withholding discipline or measuring out weak punishment for serious offenses to teenagers who act out is certainly having a dire consequence on our school environment.
Our social fabric is damaged beyond repair at this point. The only way we can really set it back on course is if we take a communistic approach to this national epidemic. Of late I have noticed that a number of advertisements have been running on the local networks. I love that we are trying to get into the conscientiousness of Bahamians. One such advertisement goes “It is late, do you know where your children are?” From time to time this commercial airs on the ZNS network. What a fantastic way to train parents! “The Shock treatment television program has further deepended our insight as to just how much of a challenge parenting is for some today. The Sure program I am informed is bursting at the seams. If this reality doesn’t say that it is time to institute Legislation for parents, I don’t know what will. In fact, the time was 15 years ago to have revamped the department of Social Services, to begin mass advertisement campaigns that would promote the values we want to be reincalcated into our Bahamian males. THE TIME IS NOW!
Let’s stop letting our children run this nation to ground zero.Let us give our children the discipline and the praise they truly deserve. Parents, teachers, and elected officials, let us readjust our thinking on parenting. Parents today, young or old, must be reminded that while we are to praise and love our children, discipline is just as important. Discipline should be consistent and firm.